The Eastern Cape is traditionally called 'the heartland of black rugby in SA.' Photo: Deryck Foster, BackpagePix
The Eastern Cape is traditionally called 'the heartland of black rugby in SA.' Photo: Deryck Foster, BackpagePix
Eastern Cape Rugby borders on utter disaster, says IOL Sport's Vata Ngobeni.
Eastern Cape Rugby borders on utter disaster, says IOL Sport's Vata Ngobeni.

PRETORIA – The Eastern Cape has got to be cursed and it seems that no amount of intervention can save the province that is dubbed the “Home of the Legends”.

What has become abundantly clear is that it is a failed province - from a political point of view - and is living on the back of their past glories and the heralded icons that hail from the province.

And just like the failed education system, the lack of provision of basic services and any sort of proper governance at provincial and municipal levels, rugby is quickly following suit.

Just last week, the Border Rugby Union (BRU) were saved from the brink of liquidation by some mysterious, last second funds that were going to be used to pay outstanding players and management salaries.

Wherever that stash of cash came from, more needs to come if we are still going to be talking about the BRU at the end of the year.

The sad reality is that no amount of money will save Border and Eastern Cape rugby, which includes Eastern Province, because corruption and political will to get things done is lacking.

While things look to be on the up in Port Elizabeth and EP having gone through a rebranding exercise and reverted to their old selves of being the Elephants in place of the Kings, it came at a heavy cost after those that had been in charge of the union and franchise did their best to destroy it and kill the sport.

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Even with the likes of former president Cheeky Watson facing corruption charges, it has done nothing to repair the damage that has occurred over the years, from the many displaced and ended rugby careers, to the province losing part of its heart and soul.

That heart and soul has been further eroded a couple of hundred kilometres north of Port Elizabeth in East London during the reign of one Pumlani Mkolo, who is set to go on trial this year for his alleged role in the Nelson Mandela funeral fraud scandal.

Mkolo should have never been allowed to again stand for the presidency of the union - while a cloud hangs over his head - until he cleared his name. A clean out of the administrators in East London is also long overdue.

Border is in dire straits, and has been long before Mkolo was catapulted into the role of president, but the lack of will from the clubs and those who say they are working in the interest of rugby, has been the direct cause of the demise of game in the entire province.

The death of these two unions will also hamper the transformation of the game as the province is the bedrock of black rugby and remains a critical pipeline in producing rugby players from their strong schools system.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University has been relegated from the Varsity Cup. Photo: Van Zyl Naude/Varsity Cup

The relegation of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University from the Varsity Cup and the failed promotion of Walter Sisulu University to the Varsity Cup, means that the province is without a team in the premier university rugby tournament in the land.

All of this on the back of poor performances in recent years of all Border's sides at the respective youth weeks, Border and Eastern Province continuing to be perennial basement dwellers in the Currie Cup first division, reckless and criminal financial mismanagement and administrators that are determined to take down the illustrious history of the province along with their incompetence.

The Eastern Cape has always been a blessing to the country politically and from a rugby front.

But those blessings have seemingly been left in the past and the current crop of administrators and politicians are proving to be a curse to both the province and the game we love so much.

Pretoria News

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